The study claims this is "the first experimental evidence showing cats' ability to understand human verbal utterances."

By Helen Murphy
April 08, 2019
Credit: 9'63 Creation/Shutterstock

Here, kitty kitty! A new study conducted by scientists in Japan shows that cats can respond to the sound of their name.

The study, published on Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports, says that even though cats can’t attach meaning to human words, if a cat hears its name over and over again, it can learn that the sound has a special meaning.

Researchers conducted four experiments with 16 to 34 cats in each. In the experiments, the felines were played a recording of either their owner’s voice or another person’s voice. The recordings recited a list of words followed by the cat’s name.

According to the study, the words recited were “nouns with the same length and accents as their own names.”

Researchers said that the cats, on average, began to lose interest as the list went on but perked up, moving their heads or tails, once they heard their own name — even when an unfamiliar person’s voice said them.

“From the results of all experiments, it thus appears that at least cats living in ordinary households can distinguish their own names from general words and names of other cats,” the study read. “This is the first experimental evidence showing cats’ ability to understand human verbal utterances.”

The study added that cats most likely only know their names because they’re connected with receiving rewards or punishments.

“Cats’ names can be associated with rewards, such as food, petting, and play, or with punishments, such as taking them to a veterinary clinic or to a bath,” the study read.

Monique Udell, who studies animal behavior at Oregon State, told the Associated Press that the study shows “cats are paying attention to you, what you say and what you do, and they’re learning from it.”


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